ANDREW Dismore may have been nakedly point-scoring in the London Assembly chamber on Thursday but as he read Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey’s crude words about the teaching of Diwali in schools back to him it’s hard to see how he had broken the rules of the plenary meeting.
The bizarre interruption from the chair’s seat occupied by Conservative Tony Arbor, and a whispering officer, appeared to be first, ‘I don’t think you should’, and then that Mr Dismore’s commentary was officially ‘out of order’ because he was quoting comments made by a fellow assembly member before they had been elected at City Hall.
So… anything Mr Bailey, or Sadiq Khan for that matter, ever said before their election to the assembly and mayoralty, cannot be repeated in the chamber. They just get a clean slate on the day they walk into the room. That doesn’t make sense, does it?
As a recap, Mr Bailey wrote in 2005: “You bring your children to school and they learn far more about Diwali than Christmas. I speak to the people who are from Brent and they’ve been having Muslim and Hindi days off. What it does is rob Britain of its community. Without our community, we slip into a crime-riddled cesspool.”
Last month, he said: “The comments I made were very tough and I apologise, but let’s be clear about context. They were wilfully taken out of context.”
Mr Dismore’s callback to the row and Mr Arbor’s wobbly attempts to stop him led to one of those fatiguing passages of play at the Assembly where you begin to wonder if anybody in the room is either sure of the rules, or what they are even doing there.
Mr Arbor began banging his gavel, insisting Mr Dismore move on yet still wincing as he tried to explain what the rules actually were. Mr Dismore, the Barnet and Camden assembly member, continued to ask on what grounds he was being silenced.
There were accusations of censorship, another Tory member Gareth Bacon described it as “undignified squabbling” – perhaps a decent label for most Assembly meetings – and Sian Berry, the Highgate councillor and Green Party leader, asked what rule had actually been broken.
Mr Bailey himself asked if he could respond and was shushed up, told he could not reply to a comment that had been deemed out of order.
By this time Mr Arbor, however, seemed less and less sure that the officer’s advice was definitively right and asked for clarification, in ‘chapter and verse’, at a later date. That’s often how they roll down by the river.